Enforcement Orders under the Enterprise Act 2002
Under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act designated enforcement bodies who can apply to the courts to stop traders infringing a wide range of consumer protection legislation where those infringements harm the collective interests of consumers.
Part 8 of the Enterprise Act replaced Part III of the Fair Trading Act 1973 and the Stop Now Orders (EC Directive) Regulations 2001. It also extended the scope of the Stop Now Order enforcement regime to include a wider range of domestic consumer protection legislation.
These orders are known as Enforcement Orders and are similar to injunctions. A breach of an Order is a contempt of court and could incur a fine or imprisonment.
Who can use Part 8 powers?
Under Part 8 of the Act three types of enforcers are identified:
(i) General Enforcers. In addition to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the Trading Standards Service in Great Britain and Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in Northern Ireland are specified in Part 8 as having the power to act as general enforcers.
(ii) Designated Enforcers. A designated enforcer is any public or private body in the UK which the Secretary of State designates in a Statutory Instrument, having identified the person or body has the protection of the collective interests of consumers as one of its purposes.
The Secretary of State has designated the following bodies as Part 8 enforcers by a Statutory Instrument:
- The Civil Aviation Authority
- The Director General of Electricity Supply for NI
- The Director General of Gas for Northern Ireland
- The Water Services Regulation Authority
- The Gas and Electricity Markets Authority
- The Information Commissioner
- The Office of Rail Regulation
- The Financial Services Authority
- Consumers' Association (Which?)
A public body will only be granted designated enforcement powers if it is independent. By granting a public body designated enforcement powers, it is deemed that the body is conclusively identified as a public body for the purposes of Part 8.
A private organisation may be designated as an enforcer only if it fulfils the criteria specified by the Secretary of State in a Statutory Instrument.
(iii) Community Enforcers. Community enforcers are entities from other European Economic Area states that are listed in the Official Journal of the European Communities. These enforcers may apply for injunctions in other member states.
What is the impact of Part 8 on consumer protection?
Part 8 of the Act improves consumer protection by giving enforcers greater powers to obtain court orders against businesses that do not comply with their legal obligations to consumers.
Part 8 of the Enterprise Act can only be used where there is harm caused to a group of consumers. A consumer will be someone who is not acting in the course of a business, although it can be an individual who is setting up a business but has not yet begun trading.
Will I be able to get my money back if the trader receives an Enforcement Order?
The Part 8 enforcement mechanism is not a means of pursuing individual redress. However it does enable Trading Standards and other enforcers to stop the activities of businesses who continually rip off customers.
Whether or not the trader is the subject of an Order, consumers can still exercise their rights to obtain individual redress, for example by suing the trader through the Small Claims Procedure in the County Court.
How can I find out if there is an Enforcement Order against a company?
The OFT website publishes Part 8 actions.
What if a business has changed its name? Will the Order still apply?
Yes. An Order can be taken against an individual as well as a business. This means that the order will apply to any future conduct by that individual. Breach of an Enforcement Order is consider a contempt of court and is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.